Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tehelka's Gujarat

Tehelka's coverage is, if anything, courageous. The stings are no revelations but are definitely the best weapons against the Hindutva apologists and deniers of the genocide and the role of Modi's government in it. But to be fair, videos of people confessing to their crimes have existed. Rakesh Sharma's Final Solution was a hard hitting documentary on the Parivar and was _banned_ by the then Central Government! So, Modi banning the TV channels evoked more of a feeling of déjà vu than surprise. The modus operandi of any right wing patriarchal form of government (right or left) has always involved control of the media. So, is it a surprise that Modi responds in such a way? But I must admit that Tehleka has done one thing - it has brought the ghost of godhra back to popular memory and right now, it seems to be the most discussed topic in the blogosphere. But turn to any TV channel and Tehelka's sting is barely in the news and it is hardly a week old. Why? Is the media working for the Parivar or is it more sinister? [note: 11 people have been convicted in one case and 29 acquitted, as being reported today].

What shocked in 2002 was not only that Modi could conduct such a genocide and get away with it but also the incredible silence from the vast majority of students in my college. Students are supposed to be idealistic and are supposed to be more sensitive to such atrocities but somehow they seemed to be completely disinterested or incredibly cynical or amazingly right wing. There were some who did express their antipathy to what happened and there were some, who I knew were the silent type, who were as disturbed as I was but somehow they seemed to be too few. I realise now that it is apathy that is the most dangerous disease affecting, particularly, our youth. The screening of Final Solution much later was sparsely attended with a part of the crowd vocally supporting Modi! I thought it was an important documentary, one that hardly got much support from the media. The only reason why the government can ban a documentary and get away with this is because of lack public support for it.

Coming back to Tehelka, the reports are terse and factual. A lot of them are old stories and in my opinion, tehelka's coverage seems to be hurried. One other thing that I noticed about the coverage was these quotes:

Tarun Tejpal says "Read And Be Afraid"

Ashish Khetan, the journo behind it all, has moments of sheer terror while working on this.

Are you afraid now?

I found the on camera confessions in Final Solution far more chilling mainly because they did not use hidden cameras and the incredible amount of security one must feel to confess to heinous crimes without fear of punishment in front of a camera is chilling. What I find more frightening is the rest of India turning a blind eye to what is going on. What I find terrifying is those people on the comment thread of digg arguing that 1000 is not enough a number to call it a genocide.

Tehelka's enduring legacy will always be its sensationalism but it still is responsible jounalism. Pragmatic because sensationalism sells and what they have done with their stings is important in the context of our democracy.

But will this spur people to action? Does this signify the end of the Parivar? Hardly. Am I being excessively cynical? Only time will tell.

But I do hope that some TV channel has enough courage to show Rakesh Sharma's and Anand Patwardhan's documentaries.


kuffir said...

a thoughtful post, apurva. but i'd like to point out that there's nothing right wing-left wing about genocide..or about curtailing free speech. at the state level, it's about control, and at the societal level, it's about uniformity..

Madhat said...

Actually, I should change that to "any patriarchal form of government (right or left)"...

Nits said...

Hi - how does one get a hold of Final Solution? I have seen Patwardhan's docs and have always felt sad that they have no market support or get screened on Doordarshan a decade later. For instance, the documentary that pretty much predicted the rising Hindu-Muslim tension over Ayodhya was made in 1991 *before* the riots of 92-93. Of course it got stuck in censorship hinterland and came out in 94 or 95...a tad too late.

And again, I agree with you about apathy. When I read blogs, I feel like wow - every one is so engaged. But know that this sample set is probably not representative of the majority.

Madhat said...

Nits, if you have the patience, you can watch the documentary in chunks on youtube. The first part is here - http://youtube.com/watch?v=PftHEftoPHU

Madhat said...

Actually, the entire documentary is available here - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3829364588351777769

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